We thought we’d passed into
the after. Like firefighters who can’t outrun the wildfire
and instead take shelter under blankets, breathing earth
until the fire either takes them or passes over, leaving them unharmed,
we craved the clarity of disaster, the bracing cleave
of before and after. It hurt like that, at least, limbs
wrenched from sockets, like the baby girl
born loose-limbed, her hips dislocated so that on the exam table
she lay like spatchcocked chicken. We’d thought our pain
would be simple and locatable. We pushpinned all the parts that hurt
and gave each one a name. I thought of after as a wolf
and I waited for its jaws.
Nancy Reddy’s work has appeared in Smartish Pace, Memorious, Best New Poets 2011, Best of the Net 2011, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is currently a doctoral candidate in composition and rhetoric.